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Advent 2021 day 19

 

Merry...uh...what?

For months now, we've been working our asses off producing stuff for Réveillon, which is a traditional feast held on Christmas morning (after midnight). It can also be celebrated on New Years. Some do both.
The name, reh-vay-yon, derives from the word réveil (waking) because you're supposed to stay awake until the morning, when the meal finishes.
This is where all the lobster, oysters, kangaroo, llama, zebra, and god knows what else gets piled up and served with epic amounts of foie gras and escargots. My stomach is falling through the floor just writing this...

The meal typically finishes with a Yule Log and much coffee. Assuming, of course, the participants made it through the cheese courses (note the plural) and the bottles of champagne. No, not wine, too ordinary. This meal is the one meal of the year where you are obliged to say "screw the budget".

There's a subtle difference between the Christmas and New Year versions. Christmas is a mostly Christian celebration and it is celebrated with family. Even for non-believers, it's a somewhat decadent family get-together.
New Year, or Saint-Sylvestre, is more usually a slightly less over-the-top affair in the night rather than after midnight, and it is spent with friends rather than family. Instead of eating a month's worth of food in one night, you instead go out, catch a show, drink too much... one could draw parallels with Hogmanay here.

The company I work for has had a turnover off the charts. This is good for us, of course. We worked all of the Saturdays, both public holidays (optional, I did the 11th), and we're still doing a half hour extra per day. I'm currently something like fifty hours ahead.
It seemed to me that because last Christmas was such an entirely miserable affair, that pretty much everybody was going to go way overboard this year to make up for it.

Then along came Omicron. Oh, hello, you're going to bugger up yet another Christmas, aren't you?

Now I know the French government is not going to impose a lockdown right now. They may strengthen the current set of restrictions, possibly make the suggestion of introducing family bubbles, but to go for anything stronger would likely get half the country out on the streets throwing chocolate Santas.
Of course, big family gatherings... you know how this will end, right? There may be a lockdown in January. I hope not, the economy is already a mess, and we desperately need a solution other than repeatedly slamming the door. What ought to be clear is that lockdowns slow the transmission of the virus due to the lack of hosts to infect, but in the long term all they do is buy hospitals more time at the expense of wrecking the economy just a little bit more.
I think, ultimately, Covid is only going to "go away" once it has done the rounds enough to ravage the immunocompromised and the weak (chiefly, now, the unvaccinated). It will likely never truly vanish, and might pop up from time to time like H1Nx does, however with a populace better prepared and people's immune systems that recognise the virus (eg it is no longer "novel"), it will become manageable.
Unlike today. There are many more hosts to infect and people to kill, and the rapid spread of Omicron says that the past n lockdowns have . . . only bought us time. It's useful, to have time, but it's not a solution. Ultimately it's exactly that - still hosts to infect and people to kill. Nothing has changed really, has it?

And so we face the prospect of yet another subdued Christmas. It'll be alright for me. I'm very introvert, so it'll just be me and a little bundle of fur. Whilst I don't tend to show emotions, I do feel them. Right now I feel pity, for everybody else. It's been a shit two years really, and looking at the news right now, you gotta be asking yourself - is there even an end in sight?

 

Reality hits home

So to cheer myself up, I just need to look at what's going on a little to the north of here. Inflation has crawled up over 5% and the Prime Minister has wisely decided that this is a good time to end the Universal Credit uplift (that's a £20 per week bonus to people). Clever. Then again, we are talking about Tories. Expect your taxes to go up soon to more than cover this "generosity".

France's inflation is above target, at a "shocking" rate of 2.8%. In response to that, the government is giving, this winter, a bonus of €100 to everybody who earns less than €2,000 net per month. That's about 38 million people (myself included). It'll also be given to jobseekers, pensioners, etc.
The government wanted to introduce an energy cheque, until they realised the scope of what that would involve (different suppliers, different types of heating, wood pellets and oil, or just fuel for the car) and decided it would be much much simpler just to hand over a hundred euros and let the citizens decide. Now, obviously there are those who will drink it away - it's their choice.
Me? I'll use it for its intended purpose and have the radiator on more. If we assume it's about €0,29 centimes per unit...it is quoted as being €0.1013 per kWh, my price is derived from dividing the bill (€63) by the number of kWh consumed (220). Anyway, if the radiator is on for ten hours a day (~€3, to keep the maths simple) then ten days over the winter holiday (guesstimate, I've not bothered to count) will be "about thirty". Throw in next week as it's supposed to be "damned cold", and a few other days here and there, but divide by two as I'll not be able to have the radiator on for ten hours if I'm at work... then, yeah, it looks like I can pop it on as and when I want for a lot of the rest of winter... and still likely come out ahead or even. Actually, in reality it'll be slightly cheaper as it turns off now and again when it is "hot enough".

Back to the UK. A glorious new trade deal with Australia. It'll add something like 0.08% to the GDP, or effectively +£1 per person. Brexit, on the other hand, has currently cost around 2.5% GDP, with trade down some 11%, averaging around -£480 per person.
Not only that, but estimates reckon that Brexit has, so far, only inflicted around two fifths of the potential economic damage, given that the EU isn't being quite as strict about things as they could be (due to the many inter-country arrangements in place), therefore it's possible that in the longer term Brexit will cost around 4% of GDP, or about £3,600 per person. Obviously predicting the future is about as reliable as predicting the weather, though arguably one could say that if one shoots themself in the foot, it will hurt. Britain shot itself in both feet.
Couple this with the damage from Covid, and the rapidly changing political landscape with Russia (a major supplier of gas - like, what happened to North Sea?) and you'd have to be completely delusional not to realise that Broken Britain is, indeed, broken.

Trade deals with the United States are not exactly forthcoming. Not only is America a massive country with a GDP and population on par with the EU, meaning we know who calls the shots, but they're also rather more fond of the Irish than the British. A look at many American movies would have told you this. British characters are either somewhat vapid cloud cuckooland sex symbols (it's the accent) or they're evil/crazy/megalomanic nutjobs who either want to blow up the world, or beat it up and then blow it up, or all of those options at the same time. You don't tend to get "nice Brits".
It must actually be rather amusing to an American, those insurrectionists that went to war to declare their independence from their colonial masters, that said "masters" not only still seem to have their minds set somewhere in the mid eighteeth century when there was an "Empire", but that they are practically begging the New World with their tails between their legs.
Given what an utter mess that Westminster has made of Brexit, of walking away from an institution that it helped create, not to mention still far too many people thinking they can reference World War II and then boss everyone around, it rather makes you wonder who would actually be dumb enough to cut a deal with Britain right now. Certainly this shower of incompetent idiots running the show. Speaking of which...

The odious Lord Frost has up and gone. Good riddance. His departure does highlight, however, the painful fact that Blighty cannot bully everybody else into submission. The rest of Europe has, rather inconveniently, formed a bloc with a much stronger GDP and unified currency and purpose (well, mostly, even if Poland doesn't quite seem to get the point), so Little England is, indeed, little. It doesn't call the shots there either.
It also highlights the equally painful truth that the Northern Ireland situation is, essentially, unsolvable. There must be a border with the UK. Britain has chosen to have a rather hard separation from the EU, therefore all of the previous nonsense with customs has returned. I posted soup to a friend, it needed a customs declaration made on-line. Every single flamin' thing that doesn't pass as a 20g letter will need a customs label. Two of the people who sent me birthday and Christmas cards passed the 20g and, yup, customs labels.
However, a border of any form or for any reason between the north and south of Ireland is a big no-no. It's part of how the peace process works that there is a duality of identity in the north, and to put some form of border there would just be bad. But, the UK isn't in the EU any more, so there needs to be a border. At the moment, it's in the Irish Sea. Which isn't pleasing the Unionists, but on the other hand it's Britain's problem, not Ireland's, so it's pretty much the only place a border can go.
Ultimately, though, it's a sticky plaster over an unsurmountable problem.

You know things are going wrong when the Express, those irrational cheerleaders of Brexit, write something like this:

Reality bites
Reality bites; can't help but feel a touch of shadenfreude.
(© Express Newspapers; via AMP)

No link. It's the Express. I have standards. Google the headline...

 

One final thing to contemplate, to neatly tie up Brexit and Covid madness, is something Lord Frost said about a month ago. Speaking at the Guildhall, he said:

I am very happy that free Britain, or at least Merry England,
is probably now the freest country in the world as regards
Covid restrictions. No mask rules, no vaccine passports.
Long may it remain so.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is why if you wear a kilt and eat porridge for breakfast, just vote Yes next time, m'kay?

 

 

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David Pilling, 24th December 2021, 13:47
Energy will be interesting... UK has stopped development of gas fields, because of the net zero policy. The result is to make the UK dependent on other countries and also to push up prices. The people who believe making laws is how you change things will find out if this is the case. High prices should mean people will use less energy and new cleaner forms will be developed. But if it turns out this doesn't work, there will be riots when the lights go out. 
UK gets roughly half gas from North (and Irish) sea, and the rest from Norway, but that does not protect it from world prices. 
Germany has closed it's nuclear plants (because Fukashima) - now more dependent on Russian gas. Presumably still neighbours of all the nuclear power in France. 
What will happen... 

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